For years now, the gay rights movement has been the LGBT movement, and it is the B in that acronym that I want to explore.
Much has been said, largely negative or skeptical, about the presence of bisexuals and bisexuality in gay/lesbian politics. The criticisms usually center around the following themes: Is bisexuality real? Is bisexuality biological, personal or cultural? Are bisexuals oppressed, or is biphobia a real phenomenon? Bisexuals and most members of the “queer” community argue that bisexuality is, indeed, a real orientation and biologically based, just like homo- or heterosexuality. I identify as bisexual myself and have since at least 13. I knew I was “different” since I was four, so I would say I am an expert.;)
I initially, in my younger years, was convinced that bisexuality was biological and immutable, and not to be questioned. However, I have come to question that over the past year just looking back at my life and exploring the points of view of bisexuality’s naysayers. So without further ado, here is the result of my questioning, a behavioral theory of bisexuality.
Bisexuals can be either lean straight, lean gay, or be evenly split. Those that are evenly split, or not particularly partial, may pursue romance/long-term relationships with one sex and pursue casual or experimental sexual experiences with the other sex. They might also be equally open to both types of relationships with both sexes.
As you can see in the title, this theory has more than one part and this is part one. Part one is an introduction to my idea and some background information. The following parts will explore bisexuality in men vs. women, and in hetero-leaning vs. homo-leaning bisexuals. I will explore separately those that claim to be evenly split. It looks like this topic will span approximately six entries.
I will start with the separation between orientation and behavior or sex and gender. Orientation is an immutable inner state, whereas behavior is external and for the most part, within our control. We as humans have the rationality and will to counteract out orientation through our behavior for various reasons, but usually, your orientation will not remain hidden forever. Something will likely give you away. Just as whatever goes up, must come down, what is hidden will be revealed because you cannot deny or delay nature forever. A similar idea can be applied to transgenderism. You can choose your social role and presentation (gender), but your biological sex remains immutable and things will invariably give your actual sex away.
So we can hopefully agree at this point that what you do is not the same as who you are, and that declaring something does not make it so.
Now I invite you to consider examples of people who behave in ways that contradict their orientation or their statements to that effect. Men in prison is a classic example. Despite the frequency of same-sex behavior in male prisons, most men in prison are not gay and do not claim to be gay. They had a solidly hetero orientation before prison and they return to that orientation once out of prison. Similar dynamics exist in women’s prisons or, indeed, any same sex environment such as boarding schools or the military. It’s clear that sexual behavior is not the same as orientation and that same sex behavior in these circumstance is situational, fully chosen and fulfills needs and wants outside of a desire for a romantic relationship or homoeroticism. While reading “The Man Who Would Be Queen,” by J. Michael Bailey, I learned from him that same-sex behavior, while not preferred, will temporarily satisfy physical/sexual urges and relieve tension. Same-sex behavior establishes dominance/submission in a world where you need to be strong to survive and where being female, feminine, or homosexual means you are weak. It’s a commodity that can be bought and sold and that requires nothing but a body in an underground economy. Furthermore, male inmates who are served sexually by submissive partners often choose “bitches,” or younger men, more feminine men, or less aggressive men because these men remind the dominant inmate of their preferred love interest (feminine women, or their girlfriends on the outside). Looking at the entirety of these men’s statements and behaviors, it would be easy to conclude, on the surface, that these men are all either closeted gay men or bisexual. Deeper examination, however, disproves this and supports the idea that sexual orientation is indeed immutable and cannot be “corrected” through various conversion therapies.
So we know orientation cannot be chosen but that behavior can be. That still leaves the question of whether bisexuality is an orientation that even can be contradicted by one’s behavior.
Orientation implies direction. Disorientation describes a state where one is unable to correctly perceive oneself in relation to space, time and circumstance, or to perceive the self at all. That person is, quite literally, without direction. We talk about being oriented north or south, as the term orientation is defined in the dictionary as the relative position or direction of something or someone. A straight person is oriented towards the opposite sex in the biological sense and gay people are orientated biologically towards the same sex. There is a clear sense of direction whereas bisexuality is defined specifically by its lack of orientation or direction. So does it really make sense to call bisexuality a sexual orientation on par with homo/heterosexuality?
I’m thinking not.
I think the push to view bisexuality as an orientation comes from cultural pressure to pick a side, so to speak, and from the cultural assumption that bisexual feelings aren’t real or genuine, that they are a phase, that you could choose to have the correct feelings if you wanted to and dissociate yourself from any and all of the wrong feelings. Seeing bisexuality is an immutable orientation shuts those lines of reasoning down quite effectively, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.
So bisexuality, according to my theory, isn’t an immutable orientation, but the fallacy is in assuming that this means bisexuality isn’t real. Bisexual feelings and sexual urges are very real, and bisexual behavior certainly is. What it isn’t is an orientation that’s fixed.
So what is bisexuality?
Is it a paraphilia? Paraphilia is defined as “a condition characterized by abnormal sexual desires, typically involving extreme or dangerous activities.” Bisexuality is not a paraphilia, because bisexuality is not an extreme or abnormal sexual fixation. It’s not extreme or abnormal to feel sexual feelings towards members of your own species, whether they are the same or opposite sex as you. It is also not inherently extreme or dangerous to go to a gay bar or have missionary sex.
Is bisexuality a fetish?
A fetish is defined as “a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc.” Bisexuality and fetishism, based on this definition, would seem mutually exclusive since bisexuals are obviously not “fixated” on, or exclusively aroused by, anything or any one body part. Bisexuals can be fetishists, of course, in addition to being bisexual but bisexuality in and of itself does not appear to be a fetish.
So…what is bisexuality then?
My theory is that bisexuality is a culture-bound, situational pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that serve a particular purpose. It is much more than just behavior or passing feelings, because bisexuality is long-standing and deep-seated in some people (myself included). It is here where it becomes important to distinguish whether bisexuals lean homo or hetero, because that describes the situation in which bisexuality happens, and therefore what thoughts, feelings, and patterns fuel bisexuality and what purpose is being served.